Title: Princess by Mistake
Author: Life. In. Pixels
Disclaimer: I do not own CCS.
Summary: Sakura is thrown into a life that is not hers where she meets the infamous Prince Syaoran Li. She will have to be clever, deceitful and tactful in order to maintain her position of power. But we all know... a life built upon lies is no life at all.
Author's Note: This idea spawned in '03 but because I had another story in progress at the time coupled with school work and life in general, I couldn't really touch on this too much. Over the course of months or whenever I had time, I took it upon myself to write a new chapter, was unsatisfied and re-wrote chapters.
Now, with the conclusion of my other story and enough time to pour on this with no distractions, I've set out to write this story and this time complete it without too much distraction. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do writing it. :]
Please note: This story won't be just simply fluff. It is rated M for later chapters though. My focus, however, is on story/plot development, characters, and themes that are based generally on interaction among people. So if you're here looking only for a short-short story or only smut, you won't find it.
The Green-Eyed Girl
The morning was cold.
The air was frigid and still. Small tendrils of mist still lingered around the fallen branches or behind small stones underneath the ancient trees.
The dirt path that stretched from one side to the other was devoid of any travelers. It was too early to be on the road. Any wise traveler knew of the notorious bands of thieves who prowled the roads, killing and stealing.
She lay belly down in the brush to the side of the road, alert and watchful. The ground was as cold as the morning air and damp. She had been in this position for hours, waiting. The morning dew had already seeped into the course woven tunic she wore. The two blades she carried were sheathed behind her back, ready whenever she was.
Now and again, some wildlife ran across the fallen leaves and made crackling sounds. Most likely squirrels.
She closed her eyes and took in the sweet air that could only be found in the early morning and felt just a little content. Risking a little movement, she glanced to her right where a man lay, equally still and patient.
His long brown hair was tied loosely at his nape. His beautiful ocean blue eyes were watchful and wary. He carried a set of arrows on his back and his bow lay to the side. The first shot was his.
His name was Kaptan and he was their leader. At the young age of twenty-four, he was agile, intelligent, brave, and extremely handsome. As much as he was kind, he was also cruel. He led a band of well-trained and loyal thieves who stole whatever they could get their hands on. They were a close knit group and one she would not hesitate to call her family.
He felt her glance on him and he turned a bit to look at her. Giving her his handsome trademark grin, he winked at her and then turned his attention back to the road.
To Kaptan's right was a small middle age man of about forty-six known as Neim. He was already balding and wore the robes of the clergy. He was trembling. She didn't know if it was from fear or from the cold, and she didn't care. He was the one that had supplied Kaptan with the intel of the King's Royal Escort and the route they would be taking. Kaptan had paid a large sum for this piece of information and he had made sure that the small weasel of a man was right beside him in the event things did not turn out as he said it would.
Beside Neim was Tor. He was the second-in-command. Tor was as strong as a bear and was also Kaptan's best friend. They had been close childhood friends. Unlike the rest of the group who had eyes on the road, Tor had his eyes on Neim. He held his large battle axe loosely in his hand but in such a threatening way that it sent a clear message to Neim: If you lied, you will die here.
She did not blame Neim for trembling. Tor was ferocious in battle, courageous in the face of death and he had multiple scars on his face and arms to prove it. But as much as Tor was bloodthirsty, he was also kind at heart to any that knew him.
She met Tor's gaze. He nodded back in acknowledgment; his beard hiding any expression he might have had.
The dozen men that were also hiding in the brush were starting to shift and lose patience. It had been three long cold hours of waiting for the Royal Escort to show up and so far they had heard nothing. Kaptan's men were hardened fighters trained to be patient and skillful but even they were losing the practiced stillness.
Kaptan frowned. He knew they couldn't afford to lose the opportunity of an ambush if the intel Neim had supplied was correct. The King's Escort were a group of trained men not unlike his own. They would be protecting whatever cargo they were carrying with their very lives.
As if right on cue, they heard the distant neighing of horses. It echoed eerily in the early morn and traveled a long distance. Immediately the men froze like cubes of solid rock. This was discipline. Not a single movement was made as the convoy appeared in their line of vision.
The King's Royal Escort traveled lightly and as discreetly as they could. They were about twenty men in total and all were heavily armed. Half were on horseback and the other half were on foot. Trailing in between the flanks was a carriage that was rumored to hold the princess.
Her green eyes tried to focus on the passenger inside but it was too dark to make out any details.
Behind the carriage was a wooden chest pulled by two soldiers.
The convoy moved as quickly as they could but cautiously.
The rickety pull of the carriage wheels on the uneven road was a welcome to the silence the group of thieves had been facing just moments before. Kaptan slowly brought his hands to his mouth and hooted once: the sound of the common owl found in this part of the woods.
None of Kaptan's men moved to the signal. Kaptan had strictly drilled into their training the five-signal method. Four times to distract. Fifth was the key to move.
Almost simultaneously after the hoot and as Kaptan had predicted, the group of soldiers below stopped and swords were drawn. Whatever and whoever they were carrying was of great importance and they were not taking any chances.
The leader of the convoy sat at the front on his black horse. It snorted indignantly at being stopped so suddenly and pawed the ground angrily. The man atop the horse had drawn his sword which she could see was finely crafted. She had no doubt this was the well-known cruel Captain of the Royal Guards, Ifrat.
Ifrat's eyes darted back and forth along the trees attempting to see any sign of movement.
There was nothing.
After a few more minutes on the alert and defensive, the convoy started to move again. However, they did not sheath their weapons.
Kaptan hooted. The second time.
Immediately the convoy stopped again. Ifrat was looking thunderously angry at being delayed. Some of his men were already less alert than the first time. No doubt few of them had not slept at all as they were pushing towards the Palace.
She wondered mildly what the princess in the carriage looked like. Her father, the King, had sent her far West when she had been just a baby. He never even bothered to name her which was a huge disgrace she would have to carry.
They had said the King wanted a son, and his newborn baby daughter greatly disappointed him. She had been sickly and frail. The nurses had said she would not live past a month. But here she was. This unnamed princess that no one had ever met was now traveling from the West back to the Palace.
The King had not thought that he would only have one child when he sent the princess away. But here, twenty years later, he had no living heir to speak of other than the princess. Now he was urgently calling her back to his side lest he died and left his kingdom to barbarian hands.
The squeak of wheels and the convoy was moving again.
Kaptan hooted. The third hoot.
His own men lay motionless but ready. Kaptan had spent weeks drilling it into his fighters how to count. Many of his men were uneducated street thugs that Kaptan had picked up and befriended through his teenage years. If just one person moved too early, the advantage of an ambush would be nil.
The convoy stopped but she noticed that some of the soldiers now didn't even bother to raise their weapons. Kaptan was right. Wear them down and catch them off guard.
"Sir," one of the soldiers at the end said, "It's just some stupid owl."
Ifrat cussed and the soldier fell silent, chastised. The convoy moved again.
Kaptan hooted. The fourth hoot.
Again the convoy stopped. Some of the foot soldiers had already sheathed their weapons and did not bother drawing them out. Ifrat himself did not bother to discipline them. He did not even bother checking the trees this time.
She could feel the adrenaline rushing through her veins. Just one more…
The convoy picked up their pace and moved again.
The fifth hoot.
Kaptan moved for his bow, strung an arrow and aimed it at Ifrat.
Within seconds, she was on her feet, both swords drawn and racing down towards the unsuspecting convoy. Around her, Kaptan's men were equally fast and quiet.
She was quick and light on her feet. Her twin blades flashed and clashed with those of another soldier's. She was ruthless and fast in her blows.
Within seconds, eight of the men from the convoy were killed without a fight by Kaptan's group. The convoy had not been ready. She had just a glimpse of Kaptan's arrow striking Ifrat down from his horse before getting into close range fight with another soldier.
The battle was swift and victorious. Within minutes, the rest of the convoy was slaughtered with only a few wounded on Kaptan's side.
He stepped over the dead bodies and made his way to the chest. With gold on their minds, they gathered around the chest eagerly.
Kaptan held out his hand and Tor handed him his heavy battle axe. With one graceful swing, Kaptan broke the lock holding the chest. He handed the axe back to Tor and grinned at his group.
"Today, we are rich," he said before kicking the chest lid open with his brown leather boot.
Instead of flashes of gold and gem sparkles, there was absolutely nothing inside other than a plain envelope sealed with the royal mark.
There was absolute silence as Kaptan picked up the letter. He did not say anything but it was clear that he was furious.
"Bring Neim," he said quietly.
Tor hesitated. "Neim passed out during the battle."
Someone snickered and then it was quiet again.
"Bring Ifrat then."
The men parted and Ifrat was dragged into the center in front of Kaptan. An arrow stuck in his shoulder, he was bleeding profusely.
"Well," the group doctor said huffily, "You struck a major vein. Slow, painful death."
Kaptan did not care. He squatted down and waved the sealed envelope in front of Ifrat's face.
"Where is the treasure?"
Ifrat coughed blood and managed a painful grin. "Over my dead body."
Kaptan stood up and swiftly kicked him in the side and cussed.
She watched as he turned to her and approached her.
"Namonai," he said. "See what this useless thing says."
She took the envelope from Kaptan's hand, her green eyes skimming over the expensive parchment and over the red royal seal. Out of all the people in Kaptan's group, she was the only one who could read and write. She had come from an upper class family that had been able to afford to educate her. The Doc could read simple words while the rest could barely manage to write their names.
Namonai broke the seal and opened the envelope.
Nothing was inside.
She shook the envelope upside-down hoping to obtain some clue but there was nothing.
"Nothin-" she was about to report when a sharp pain pierced her left arm, just above the wrist. She dropped the envelope in surprise and yanked her arm up. There was a spider unlike any she had seen before, sinking its fangs into her delicate skin.
Kaptan was in action, helping to kill it before anyone else could react. "Doc," he said but the doctor was already on it.
He took her arm into his hands and searched in his bag for medicine. "I've never seen a spider like that before," he muttered.
By now Kaptan was pacing around, worried.
"Bring the princess," he finally said.
The princess was a sickly thing like the rumors had said. She coughed incessantly and could barely stand up by herself. Her hair lay limp at shoulder length and her complexion was too pale. She wore a course garb usually found on the lower class women and wore no jewelry.
Kaptan was kind to her. He sat her down comfortably and attempted to chat with her but she was quiet except for the bouts of coughing from time to time.
Doc was wrapping a bandage around Namonai's wrist when she found the princess staring at her. Kaptan noticed too and gestured for her to come over.
She stood up and walked over. Her short brown hair waving slightly in the breeze.
"You were bitten by the spider," the princess managed to say through coughs. It was the only thing she had said thus far.
"How did you know that?"
"You were not supposed to," the princess paused to take a gulp of breath, "to open that envelope."
"The spider was in the envelope?" Kaptan asked puzzled. Then more concerned, he said, "Is it a trap?"
The princess shook her head. "No… that was supposed to be my coronation." She attempted to stand but could not manage it. "You have taken that from me."
"What does that mean?" Kaptan wanted to know.
But the princess would not say or explain further. Her tired eyes bore into Namonai's green eyes, with condemnation.
The Doc came over to examine the princess. "A word with you," he told Kaptan and the two men moved a little away to speak privately.
Once Kaptan and the Doc were out of hearing range, the princess whispered, "Once the bite heals, you will carry the mark of the Royal Family forever."
Namonai stared coldly back, a bit startled. Then she shook her head. "I'm not interested in taking your spot, Princess."
"He killed the spider?"
"Then it is done." The princess held out her hand and Namonai had no choice but take it. The princess's hand was small and cold. "The spider only spawns every five years. Until then, you must take my responsibility beside the King because no one else will bear the Mark other than you."
"No," Namonai said, shaking her head. "That's not my responsibility."
"Everyone knows the Royal Mark but few know how to get it," the princess explained, a bit more kindly now. "You will be known as the princess whether you like it or not."
She refused. She had other more important things to take care of, not play house in a palace.
Kaptan came back. The Doc had let him know that the princess would not survive the night. In fact, the Doc had said, it was a miracle that she had hung on this long given how weak she was.
"What's up," Kaptan wanted to know. His blue eyes scanned the two expectantly.
The princess met Namonai's emerald green eyes. "You are now the new princess."
Kaptan looked bewildered for a moment but regained his composure.
"You must go to the household of Meiling," the princess continued. "She will provide you soldiers for the rest of the journey to the Palace."
"Wait," Kaptan said now really bewildered and concerned. "What has happened?"
"You will take Ifrat's spot," the princess said to Kaptan ignoring his questions.
"I'm not interested," Namonai repeated.
"What is your name?" the princess wanted to know.
The green-eyed girl was silent for a while and finally she said, "My name is Namonai."
Her green eyes were unreadable.
"Namonai?" the princess asked. "It means the Unknown One? Surely that is not your real name."
Namonai shrugged. "A name is not important."
"What is your real name?" the princess persisted.
Kaptan leaned on the side of the carriage and said, "Her real name is Sakura Kinomoto."
He met Namonai's furious gaze with his cool blue ones. He had always been against her using another name.
"Sakura…" The princess smiled. "What a pretty name. It is a suitable name for a princess."
"I will say this again. I am not pretending to be a princess!" Sakura replied quietly.
"This is not a choice," the princess said softly. "From this day on, the princess of this kingdom is you, Sakura… and there is nothing you can do to change that fact."
Author's Note: Well, let me know what you think by dropping off a review. Next chapter up asap.
To Be Continued…